1. Things Fall Apart (1999): While a case can be made for shuffling around many of the entries on this list, it’s hard to imagine anyone tackling this feature and not confidently placing Things Fall Apart at the top. A watershed moment not just for the Roots, but for hip-hop in general, this album saw the band emerge from the jazz-laced cocoon of its original incarnation and take its place as a unique musical force. The songwriting is impeccable, the performances are untouchable, and the album as a whole is seamless. Featuring guest spots from likeminded artists including Common, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu, Things Fall Apart marks the moment the Roots stopped showing potential and started a movement of their own. From its poignant, Chinua Achebe-inspired title to the social commentary of its multiple album covers and Spike Lee sample, this was where the Roots began making the best music of their lives, while also clearly having something to say. The single “You Got Me,” featuring Badu on a vocal hook written by Jill Scott, still endures as a classic, set among a series of other classics including “The Next Movement,” “Double Trouble,” “Act Too,” and “Dynamite!” It’s an album that sounds less like the work of a mere band, and more like the output of a league of hip-hop superheroes, here to save the world through music, or die trying.

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